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Can we discuss continuity with curriculum and curriculum hopping

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#1 lolo


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Posted 12 January 2018 - 12:49 AM

I am wondering if we can discuss continuity with curriculum vs curriculum hopping and the effects on education.

There is so much out there talking about the good academic results of homeschooling. I was thinking the other day about if these results from early hs families is due to parents having fewer options for curriculum and needing to create their own materials. This giving more continuity and flow to what children learned. Skills then could go deeper each year.

Whereas today we have so many options and they differ so much in s&s, style, content. I am wondering what others think about changing curriculums, and the effect on education overall. I see so many posts about changing phonics programs, math, grammar. And I have changed phonics programs too 🙃. But as I prepare planning 1st grade it has me thinking if I should be focused on sticking with one publisher for a subject for elementary etc.

I look at American public schools and wonder if some of the problems stem from too much change in curriculum and procedures.

So what are your thoughts? Worth it to plan to stick with something or does changing have no long effects?

#2 OneStepAtATime


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Posted 12 January 2018 - 02:17 AM

I think the answer is yes and no.

Yes, hopping curriculum CAN cause issues. NO it is not automatically a bad idea.

As for why brick and mortar schools runs into problems, I think that is far more complex than just curriculum hopping. Lots of schools actually don't curriculum hop much. There have been recent transitions because of things like Common Core and shifting from printed textbooks to electronic textbooks for some schools but again, there is a LOT more that affects brick and mortar schools than just the curriculum.

I do agree that there are a dizzying array of choices and that can make it very hard to find the right path for a particular child/family/teacher. I think also that newbies (myself included once upon a time) often hop curriculum too soon, simply because a child hits a snag. Since there are so many options it seems that something else is bound to fit better. What many (I was guilty of this too) fail to realize is that all kids periodically hit some sort of snag. It may not be the curriculum at all. Maybe they are developmentally not yet ready for that concept/skill so returning to it later works better or maybe they are bored because they are beyond the material and need the next level, or maybe they going through hormone/growth/emotional changes that make it harder to learn so they may need to slow down/do shorter lessons/take a break for a day or a week, or maybe for that one topic/skill they do need a different approach but just supplementing with a different source for that one thing will work fine. Or maybe the curriculum as written is not a great fit but with some minor tweaking it works fine. There are a zillion reasons why a child might hit a snag that would not actually necessitate changing the curriculum altogether. The curriculum is a tool for the teacher and only one tool of many that are usually in the teacher's arsenal but it should not be the master.

However, and this is important, one of the beautiful things about homeschooling that children in brick and mortar frequently don't have is the ability of the teacher to seek out better materials to fit the needs of their child(ren). There are times when curriculum selections really are a poor fit for the student/teacher. Maybe it worked until a certain grade. Or maybe it never worked to begin with. Maybe the teacher is spending copious amounts of his/her time trying to make it fit and it still isn't working well or takes up too much time and effort to MAKE it work. Switching to something that fits better can be a HUGE help. Massive.

My philosophy after several years of homeschooling is this:

1. If something isn't working well, try to tweak it.

2. Also, really dig in and try to determine WHY it isn't working. Maybe the child has a learning challenge and NOTHING will work well until it is addressed. Maybe as a teacher I need to find a better way to implement it or maybe I'm not doing enough prep work ahead of time. Maybe it worked beautifully for earlier grades but it seems to not be working well at all now. Whatever the case, before letting panic/frustration cause me to hop curriculum I need to do due diligence as the instructor, determine why it isn't working where possible and at least try to make it work for our needs if adjustments might help. Curriculum hopping may not solve the underlying problem at all.

3. If it still isn't working then absolutely seek other options. 100%. Do not slave yourself to one particular curriculum no matter what simply because it is what you had planned to use. If it really isn't working then heck, there are so many options out there it is pretty likely that something else WILL work. Finding a better option is a lot more likely, though, if you really did dig in deep and find out why (or suspect why) your current choice is not working.

4. This is especially so with regards to things like science and history. Those subjects can be tackled from so many different angles. My feeling is that those subjects in elementary school are far less about retention of specific facts and far more about firing up a love of learning in those subjects. If science or history is feeling like drudgery, if your child bursts into tears whenever the subject comes up, then dang find a better way. Don't make them miserable. Or you, either, for that matter.

5. Skill sets are a bit different, but the same basic scenario applies. Math/reading/writing can definitely suffer if a solid foundation isn't laid. Constantly hopping curriculum trying to find the perfect one, especially if it is just a hard subject in general for that particular child, may not net anything but frustration and even bigger gaps. That doesn't mean hopping curriculum should never be done in these subjects. It just means that many times a parent gets frustrated because things aren't going well and they then assume it has to be the curriculum. So they hop. And it maybe works for a bit but in the long run the child is still struggling/frustrated/bored/etc. Why? Well maybe the material is too advanced for them and dropping down a level would make all the difference. Maybe the student needs the lessons broken up into smaller pieces when new material is introduced but the overall material is fine. Maybe this is just a really hard subject for this student and they need more time, a slower pace, etc. Maybe the teacher is not really understanding the format but taking a few days to really study the system, ask questions of those who have used it a lot, maybe even watch some Youtube videos would turn it around and make this material easier to implement. Maybe the choice is good as a spine but the child also needs more challenging material alongside it for a different approach. Maybe just supplementing with another source will do the trick.

6. Again, though, there are times when ditching the current selection is absolutely the right thing to do. It isn't always easy to know when that is but I absolutely 100% do not believe that it is always best to slog through something that isn't working well. Skills can be developed through many different types of sources. It isn't wrong to ditch something and try something else if what you are using is a really poor fit. Plus, NO curriculum is perfect or covers every topic from every angle in every way possible. Switching at some point may help fill in gaps that the teacher/student didn't even realize they had. Or the student is advanced and needs more of a challenge. Or they need more built in review. Or hardly any review. The teacher and the student may very well benefit from a switch.

Let me give an example: My son does pretty well in math but my daughter has dyscalculia. Math has been a really long, hard slog for her. I did not know she was dyscalculic when we started homeschooling. She kept hitting terrible snags in math. We would hop curriculum. It would work for a bit then she would hit snags again. We would hop. It was a terrible mistake. The curriculum WAS part of the issue but there were deeper problems than just the curriculum. Once I understood that, I was able to get us on a better path. I had to be willing to dig deeper to really understand the issues though.

DD needed to actually start completely over, going way back to basic subitization skills. She then needed a spiral math (we switched to CLE). The programs we had been using before (MUS, Math In Focus, etc.) were all mastery based. She needed a spiral approach. Once we had gone back to the beginning, solidified the really critical gaps at the earliest levels, and then moved to a workbook based spiral math, she started to gain ground and move faster through the curriculum. Just slogging through the programs we had tried would not have helped. Even after filling in those critical gaps, remaining with a mastery based system would have been a really poor fit. CLE was a great fit. Much better for DD than the other things we had tried.

However, it became apparent over time that while CLE was a great fit, DD also needed supplementing through other sources. CLE could only carry her so far. I had to learn to adapt the existing curriculum AND supplement so that the material was working for her, not against her. CLE was awesome. It worked very well as our spine. But no curriculum is perfect. Different supplemental materials have been needed at different times (Beast Academy/CTC/Math on the Level/Math Mammoth/etc.). There was no one perfect curriculum that was going to meet all of her needs. Adapting to her needs of that moment by flexing with whatever material will actually help her has been far more effective than just forcing her to slog through material that does not work for her brain.

Sorry this is so long. Best wishes in your journey.

Edited by OneStepAtATime, 12 January 2018 - 02:55 AM.

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#3 Pegs


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Posted 12 January 2018 - 03:14 AM

Well said, OneStep! Lots to think about.
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#4 HomeAgain


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Posted 12 January 2018 - 06:54 AM

One thing that often comes up is that the curriculum will change from year to year and not progress the same way as the child.  Saxon math comes to mind.  Nancy Larson wrote K-3, and then it uses a slightly different format as it goes into 5/4, 6/5...etc.  It's not the same and doesn't have the same feel.  Parents can like one set but not the other. 


We reassess needs periodically and see what is happening.  If curriculum is a tool, then my planning and the WTM are the backbone and soul.  I can choose any tool I need that strengthens the bones of a program and not feel dependent on them to do the entire job.

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#5 Evanthe


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Posted 12 January 2018 - 07:58 AM

I would try not to curriculum-hop *too much* with stuff like math.  But, honestly, we've used all kinds of different curricula (and even homeschool methods) over the last ten years and my kids have turned out fine.  DD16 is taking her first class outside the house this year.  She decided to take a high school science class.  She has a 100% average in the class right now.  DS14's writing *gasp!!* was used an example for the rest of his Confirmation class last year.  DD16, who's used parts of 3 gazillion math programs, is much better at math than me or my dh (who started as an engineering major in college).  


*shrug*  I told another friend of mine recently when we were talking about this topic - I don't think it's the curriculum.  It's the teacher.  I teach dd12's AOPS prealgebra pretty much the same way I teach dd16's Saxon math or ds14's MUS.  And using different programs has taught me different ways to do things, which filters down to my teaching (I actually teach each kid's math lesson every day on a dry erase board).  Yeah, they have different problems to solve and a different scope and sequence, but I'm not above pulling problems from different programs if I think they're missing something, too.  And I spend probably too much time on conceptual stuff, but I will show them several different ways to solve problems and then we'll try it and see if we get the right answer.


I kinda went off on a tangent (no math pun intended).  OK, so if you're going to try not to curriculum-hop with anything to make teaching easier, I would pick: math, grammar and spelling.  So far, our household seems to be real consistent with spelling and grammar.   :001_rolleyes:  


But, I'm NOT telling you to curriculum-hop!   :tongue_smilie: lol

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#6 Evanthe


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Posted 12 January 2018 - 08:23 AM

There is so much out there talking about the good academic results of homeschooling. I was thinking the other day about if these results from early hs families is due to parents having fewer options for curriculum and needing to create their own materials. This giving more continuity and flow to what children learned. Skills then could go deeper each year.


This is just my opinion...but I think the academic success is from the homeschooled kids getting individual attention.  It's not the curriculum.  Or the scope and sequence.  Everyone isn't going to know the exact same things and everyone is going to have gaps in their knowledge. 


Teachers with a classroom of 30 kids at different levels can't give as much individual attention to each kid as I can with only 5 (and being with them 24 hours a day).  I'm able to discuss Ernest Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea with my teens while I cook dinner...or read Call of the Wild before we go to bed...we can have discussions in the car...we can watch movies/documentaries together and talk about them.  DD12 and dd10 are spending Saturday mornings working on Ellen McHenry's chemistry programs.  Saturdays!  Chemistry!  Ahhh!!  


And when my kids don't know or understand something, I KNOW they don't know it.  There's no fading into the woodwork here like you can in a classroom full of kids.  We work on it until they understand it (this especially applies to math).

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#7 PeterPan


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Posted 12 January 2018 - 09:08 AM

This is just my opinion...but I think the academic success is from the homeschooled kids getting individual attention.  It's not the curriculum.  Or the scope and sequence. 


Bingo. The parents looked at their kid and gave them what they needed and were ready for and gave them the support to do it.


Some publishers build their curriculum to work together across subjects. So, for instance, if you pick BJU and use all BJU, there's actually a synergistic effect, where the vocabulary for the history (heritage studies), is being pretaught in the reading and the writing is being spread across the subjects, etc. It's there and it can be a really good reason to use the major components from one publisher WHEN IT FITS THE CHILD.


The other thing is that you are naturally going to be inclined to get in a groove and stick with something once you find a publisher or author that works for your child. You're in a stage where things change because you're learning to read, trying things. But once you hit 2nd-ish, you'll probably find your stride, find what fits, and get in a progression. It's ok to change things up, but many people find a groove that fits for a while. You probably will too.


EVEN IF someone had some convincing argument of why this or that approach was really good, you always have to go back to the child. I have to teach the child in front of me, and I've taught my two children very differently. I let it rattle me for a lot of years, because I WISHED that I could make the tidy progression some other people were able to make work (one publisher, all the way, blah blah) fit one of my kids. It would have been really nice! Teach the child in front of you. Stay as stable as you can and don't let your fears drive you.


What I've always tried to do is pre-research, so I'm thinking a full year ahead. That way I can listen for feedback and realize where things are going. Find someone who has a dc roughly similar to yours in a situation sorta like yours. It's really dissettling if you are getting advice for an approach that works really great when you have lots of kids in the house but it doesn't match how you'd fly with an only. Learn to do a google site search of the boards. You put the terms and then site:welltrainedmind.com into your google bar. You'll LOVE it. So then you can go hmm, what would PeterPan use? and you can actually find out! So you'd go "math 3rd grade PeterPan site:welltrainedmind.com" and type all that into your browser bar and see what happens. I don't know, then you'll find out all my dark secrets, haha. But I LOVE the site search feature. 


Yes, if you find a groove and find a publisher that is clicking with your dc, obviously you're going to stick with them. But sometimes, after 3 or 4 years, YOU are ready for a change. That's really valid! And sometimes you realize that you're in a rut and want a different emphasis that wasn't maybe a strength for that curriculum. So it's ok to change, just maybe don't be CHAOTIC. There's a difference between calm, intentional change with a goal toward getting in a rhythm and being CHAOTIC. The best way to stay stable, when you're making changes, is to write out your goals. Actually write them out on a piece of paper. 1st grade goals, 2nd semester 1st grade goals. Write them out! Then you'll see that your GOALS were stable and what you were heading toward was stable and that it was the tools you were using to achieve your goals that changed.

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#8 OneStepAtATime


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Posted 12 January 2018 - 11:06 AM

Bingo. The parents looked at their kid and gave them what they needed and were ready for and gave them the support to do it.




There's a difference between calm, intentional change with a goal toward getting in a rhythm and being CHAOTIC. The best way to stay stable, when you're making changes, is to write out your goals. Actually write them out on a piece of paper. 1st grade goals, 2nd semester 1st grade goals. Write them out! Then you'll see that your GOALS were stable and what you were heading toward was stable and that it was the tools you were using to achieve your goals that changed.


This.  :)

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#9 Tohru


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Posted 12 January 2018 - 11:53 AM

The best bit of information I received when I started homeschooling is there are 2 different categories of subjects: skill based and content based.


For early skill based subjects (spelling, reading, math), it's probably best to stick to one unless it is absolutely not working. Once the child advances in the skills with a foundation, you could look at other programs.


For content subjects (science, history, social studies, art, music), it really doesn't matter much if you use one publisher, or multiple, or hop around.

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#10 Targhee


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Posted 12 January 2018 - 12:05 PM

I think one of the reasons Homeschoolers do so well is BECAUSE they curriculum hop, or otherwise adapt to fit the learning needs of the students. While I do not think the impetus of learning rests solely on the teacher, I can say from first hand experience of my kids in and out of school that having materials and an approach that work synergistically with the way the kids learn and communicate makes a world of difference!

The trick is knowing when curriculum is incompatible or when the kid is in a lull, or has a learning hurdle that can't get over alone.

I use different math and writing curriculum for my kids - sometimes overlapping, but frequently distinct. And I may use different things at different times - e.g. one child does Grammar Town in 3rd and another in 6th, not so they are doing it together but so they are doing it when they are ready.

One last thought, homeschooling provides a greater opportunity to inoculate your kids with love and connection (simply because you have more time together), and this love and connection are critical for flexibility, confidence, and soft skills. Not that homeschool guarantees greater connection or that public school prohibits good connection, just that the opportunity is greater in homeschool.
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#11 8FillTheHeart


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Posted 12 January 2018 - 12:18 PM

I didn't read the answers b/c of limited time, but my personal opinion that the biggest issue is whether or not parents are handing curriculum to kids and leaving them to their own devices--no teaching, no follow up, no grading-- vs. parents engaging with their kids.


I don't have to know the materia as well as a teacher in order to engage with my kids.  I can work alongside of them and we can discuss concepts and work them out together and my kids can excel through that method.  But, expecting kids, especially young kids, to self-teach writing, spelling, math, etc is just a recipe for failure. So is expecting them to log onto a computer and leaving their eductaion strictly between them and the computer interface.  Older teens can learn to be self-accountable with online resources, but imo, you can't just expect it to happen suddenly or at a young age. And then, when parents blame the kids for not doing their work.....ugh.....it seems pretty obvious from the outside.

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#12 fralala


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Posted 12 January 2018 - 03:37 PM

I think we all tend to curriculum hop when something really isn't working.


So, if our child suffers with that subject, it can be hard to tell whether the curriculum hopping is the problem, or is just a symptom of the problem. (As with the changing curricula and standards in public education-- I think they're symptoms of a greater problem, but as someone who grew up with teachers who largely worked fairly independently of curricular requirements, I'd say that greater freedom, not stauncher adherence to a specific curriculum, is a good thing.)


Often, when I find myself wanting to curriculum hop (and I don't mean a reasonable change to something that is a better fit for my child, I mean an unreasonable quest for The Curriculum that will not just make my children intuitively comprehend All the Things there are to know about a subject, but also LOVE and DELIGHT in learning that subject), it's because spending money is easier than admitting:


I just don't enjoy teaching this subject that much.

My child really struggles with this.

My child is good at this, but doesn't care about it.

My child would rather play Legos no matter how much effort I put into things.

I'm bored and crave more mental stimulation.


Those are problems, either my children's problems or just things I need to deal with already (like the Lego thing). The curriculum hopping is just a symptom. If I use it as a way to avoid addressing any of the above, yes, curriculum hopping will probably result in my kids receiving a substandard education.

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#13 Dramorellis


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Posted 12 January 2018 - 04:05 PM

To me curriculum means our overarching plan of study. As long as our path is consistent or at least measured in the changes we make, then what "resources" I use to accomplish those goals is much less important. The math program is not teaching my child, I am. I try not to leap into something different without evaluating first why other resource wasn't working in the first place. Many times it has not been the book at all but the timing and development of the child. I consider it a strength that I can put a resource aside and try something different to adapt and meet our current need. One of the most obvious differences in a brick and mortar school is that the teacher has little to no input into a change in curricula nor do they have the ability to differentiate the materials to meet all the various needs of so many students. So if there is a change in curricula needed, they are probably not able to do so. Then the child moves to another class next year and whatever gap there is will probably get missed again. There is no gap at home because I'm "at elbow" every day with my children. In my home changing materials is a non-issue because the teacher and long range goals are consistent. 

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#14 sweet2ndchance


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Posted 12 January 2018 - 06:01 PM

If you are viewing the homeschooling community as a whole based on those who post on an online forum and the personal experience of one homeschool parent with a fairly young child, I don't think you are going to get an accurate representation.


If you judge the safety of driving a car based on the amount of business an auto repair shop gets from accidents, I think anyone would agree that is not a logical way to assess the safety of driving. If you judge how often homeschoolers curriculum hop based on the number of posts on a busy online forum gets about changing curriculum, your results will be similarly skewed. People tend to ask questions on a forum when they are having issues but people who are not having problems with curriculum are not likely to post about it.


A parent of a young child just starting out homeschooling is more likely to curriculum hop a little to begin with. Unless you have some teaching experience or strongly held beliefs about how to teach a certain subject, it is unlikely you will pick the perfect curriculum the first try. As you learn more about how your child learns and become more confident in your teaching abilities, it becomes easier to pick a compatible curriculum for them the first try.


I'm still using the same phonics and kindergarten programs to teach my youngest son (5yo) that I used to teach my oldest son (19yo) when he was 5yo. I did curriculum hop a little because I ended up with kids in between those two with learning disabilities that needed addressing but for a developmentally normal child, I have no need to ask questions on a forum because I already have what works for me and my kids.


I also agree with the others that successful homeschooling has less to do with curriculum and more to do with individual attention and time available to address any problems. Even the best institutional school teacher cannot give the time and attention needed to make sure that none of the children that pass through their classroom slip through the cracks academically. A homeschooler has the luxury of never allowing their children to slip through the cracks.

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#15 .....


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Posted 12 January 2018 - 06:08 PM


Edited by ....., Yesterday, 07:45 PM.

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